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As a Man Thinks in his Heart, So is He: Pastor Brian Skar Immanuel Baptist Church Minot, ND

Rev. Anthony Thompson, pastor of Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church in Charleston, spoke words of wisdom in his Lenten Sermon at First Baptist Church of Charleston. His sermon reminded me that it is time for me to forgive myself for unkind words I spoke recently out of anger. I have already apologized to the other party. I was also reminded of the sermon from my friend, Rev. Brian Skar of Minot, North Dakota. Perhaps we could all use reminding.

Romans Chapter 12 is one of the most remarkable and important chapters in all of Scripture.  It starts with a call for believers to live extraordinary lives as living sacrifices and to conform not to the world but be transformed by the Spirit into instruments of God’s will.  Then Paul goes on to encourage us to discover, hone and put to use our spiritual gifts.

The last half of the chapter, starting with verse 9 is an exhortation to embrace love in its greatest and purest form.  It is a call to humility and service and forgiveness.  And then verse 18:  “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live in peace with all.”

Peace is included in the list of the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23.  Peacemakers are counted among those who are blessed in the Beatitudes.  Now, there is an inner peace, “the peace that passes all understanding,” but that’s not the peace of the above passages.  Having that inner peace certainly makes it easier to live a life seeking inter-relational peace as well.

So if a desire for living in peace with others is one of the primary Christian virtues, why do Christians have such a reputation of belligerence.  We like to say it is because we are taking strong stands on morality and defending our faith.  But in my experience, many Christians just like to do battle.  They like the confrontation. They like to stick it to those who oppose them.  Perhaps they are even sold on the lie that wrath confrontation is profitable for the Kingdom.

Many Christians honestly believe “If we can just punish those sinners enough, they will see the light and repent and convert.”  But both experience and common sense teach that such a strategy never really works.  Coercion is not the Biblical means for bringing people to the Lord.  The adage “A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still” is an absolute truth.

So if we are to be peacemakers rather than strife mongers, where do we start.  First, we have to change our minds.  We have to believe in our hearts that what the Bible has to say about this is the truth.  Second, we have to change our words.  Jesus taught us in Matthew 15:11 that it is what comes out of the mouth that defiles a person.  In Matthew 5:22 Jesus give a harsh warning to those who hurl insults.  Paul warns about the dangers of foolish joking and crude talk in Ephesians 5:4.   Earlier in Ephesians 4:31, he admonishes believers to put away all forms of bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice.

If we can replace the malice in our words with kindness, it will not be long before our hateful actions will turn to acts of love.  That’s where we should live.  That’s what will truly profit the kingdom of God.  Quoting Publius Syrus:  “Speech is the mirror to the soul; as a man speaks, so is he.

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International Woman’s Day

Today is International Woman’s Day. As far as I am concerned every day is Woman’s Day. My mother worked long hard hours in a cotton mill and then came home and took care of her family. She and my dad did everything together. In later years she had her own lawn mower. His was gas operated. Hers was electric. My maternal grandmother worked as dis most of my aunts. My sister has worked outside the home from as soon as she could and for as long as she could. She helped raise three wonderful sons. Mt late wife taught kindergarten, art classes, and painted. Carol, my current wife, taught in South Carolina Schools for twenty-eight years.

My daughter, Suzanne, has worked in the hotel industry since late high school. She got her degree in Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management and has never looked back. She raised a terrific son. My granddaughter , Christina, teaches in child care after graduating from the College of Charleston. Her other grandmother also had a distinguished teaching career.

As an administrator I had many wonderful female employees who were paid on the same level as their male counterparts. It has been my great joy to work with many brilliant, talented, dedicated, hardworking women.

In religious circles, there are brilliant examples of women who lead the way: Dr. Molly Marshall, Dr. Joan Brown Campbell, and Dr. Linda Bridges to name only a few. My own congregation could not function without Lori Lethco, Emory Hiott, Beverly Bradley, Pat Ezell, Jane Hamrick, Ann Cheek, Susanne Jeter, Linda Lentz, Brandy Brown, Donna Parrish, Debbie Mack, Sue Murner and a host of others.

I have learned the hard way all of the things that my two wives, daughter and sister have done for me that I took for granted. No matter how hard I work, I can never repay their efforts great and small on my behalf. All I can do now is work for and vote for justice for all women everywhere..

*The picture is of my parents taken by my son, Michael.

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Great Reception at Charleston Baptist Church Forever Young Seniors

There is one thing all Baptists have in common. We like to eat and fellowship. You can never go wrong by attending a Baptist Pot Luck meal and the Forever Young Seniors at Charleston Baptist Church are no exception to the rule. These folk have a great time together.

If the truth be told, they do not need a guest speaker. Their fellowship is enough to carry them through. Today they were celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. My friend Randy Moody took a fair amount of grief over his green Dollar Tree hat.

I was flattered to be their quest speaker for the meeting. They were extremely receptive and polite while I talked about what I learned while writing, Our Father: Discovering Family. They even bought copies of that one and, Christian Civility in an Uncivil World. We had a good exchange of ideas. I always have more fun around church people. My friend Phyllis Haynes from First Baptist was also there.

Randy Moody introduced me. Randy, Sarah, his wife, and I have been friends for more than thirty years. They are marvelous Christians who make life better for all who know them.

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Our Father: Discovering Family at Charleston Baptist Church

My friends Sarah and Randy Moody have invited me to speak to the Forever Young Seniors group at Charleston Baptist Church on Wednesday March 1. I am looking forward to this event with these delightful folks. I have visited their group before.

My topic is, “What I Learned Writing a Spiritual Autobiography.” Believe me the learning did not stop when the book was sent to the publisher. Learning from the experience continues. Our lives are not static. We continue to grow as human beings and hopefully we continue to mature spiritually. The direction of all life is growth.

Our Father; Discovering Family, records a moment in time when I paused long enough to discover where I am on my faith journey. I hope my experiences are helpful to others who struggle with some of the same circumstances that I faced. We are all more alike than we are different. We often feel that we are alone in our struggles only to learn later that others have walked through the same or similar troubled waters.

I was fortunate as a young Christian to have a pastor who said to me, Mitch, God is not bothered by your questions.” He went on to assure me, “God made all of you. That includes your brain. He did not intend for you to park it at the door when you come to church.” What a blessing.

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